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Heather Conover and Lisa Walter working on a 5-year campaign that includes surprising new road signs about underage drinking.
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Allie Barry of MyC3 (Mountain Youth Can Change Communities) leads a work session for McCASA.
By Patric Hedlund
Motorists may be surprised to see a new sign showing up on local roadways at the end of this week. It is part of a five-year campaign to change the cultural acceptance of underage drinking in the community.
A test call to see what happens when people dial the number on the “Report Underage Drinking—Save Lives” sign yielded a Kern County dispatcher.
“We would enter a call for service and a deputy would respond if you were making an actual report,” the dispatcher explained.
“This is a ‘Save Lives’ campaign, not a ‘Get-Your-Teenager- in-Trouble’ campaign,” said Heather Conover, a youth coordinator for the grant.
“We need to get it out in the open and get people intervening. That will save physical lives—but it is also about preserving the future for this child, so they can have healthy opportunities to grow up. It is more of a positive approach.”
In 2009 the Mountain Communities Family Resource Center (FRC) won a federal ‘Drug Free Communities’ support grant, providing $125,000 a year over five years to help community volunteers prevent and reduce substance abuse among local youth.
The Kern County Roads Department is installing the signs, the latest in a sequence of visible changes being accomplished by the Mountain Communities Coalition Against Substance Abuse (McCASA). Although there have been commercial billboard sign campaigns elsewhere in the country, Conover thinks this may be the first collaboration between a county roads department and a community determined to reduce the number of lives being endangered by underage use of alcohol and drugs.
“People are more willing to help now,” Conover reflected as she reviewed strides that have been made since the grant was written by FRC Director Anne Weber. “When we ask now, people help,” Conover laughed.
The Prescription Drug Take Back program has been a major success, safely disposing of over a hundred pounds of prescription pills, keeping them out of the hands of curious teens.
Youth coalitions are also at work now, taking a leadership role in McCASA. They will help with the public Rachel’s Challenge assembly September 25 at 7 p.m. to reduce bullying in schools.
This is part of the September 07, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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